NOT for the first time in a final, the man Warrnambool calls “Pies” was hot.
Andrew McCarthy was given the toughest job in Hampden footy, limiting Cobden’s dual Maskell Medal winner Levi Dare’s ruck influence in Saturday’s qualifying final at Terang.
The 29-year-old delivered for his side. While Dare was one of Cobden’s best, the versatile McCarthy was crucial floating across half-back, grabbing marks and providing rebounding run.
In a tense final term with Cobden coming at Warrnambool, McCarthy drilled a long goal to give his side some breathing space at the five-minute mark.
McCarthy, standing 189 centimetres and weighing 90 kilograms, was significantly undersized against Dare (196 centimetres and 103 kilograms) but he kept jumping, wearing down Dare.
“Getting the ball to fall straight down was a win,” McCarthy said of the ruck contests.
He said the around-the-ground stoppages were tough going against Dare, who could use his reach to make long tap-outs to advantage.
“The centre bounces, at least I could get a jump at him,” he said.
McCarthy said the return of premiership ruckman Rob Bright from a long injury lay-off had helped lighten some of his ruck load and free him up to play a sweeping role across half-back.
McCarthy, in his 13th season of senior football, is relishing his work.
Saturday’s nine-point win was the start of his seventh finals series, having been part of Warrnambool’s five consecutive grand final appearances between 2008 and last year.
Part of that golden run has been a string of victories against Cobden — 15. The last time Cobden defeated Warrnambool was the 2008 qualifying final. McCarthy was part of that game.
The accountant said he had played in 14 of the 15 consecutive wins against Cobden, with injury keeping him out of one.
He said the streak was rarely spoken about by the Blues.
“It’s not as if we turn up thinking it will be easy, you never think ‘we’ve got Cobden’,” he said.
“In the back of your mind we know we can do it but I don’t think it (the record) counts for much when you run out on the ground.
‘‘We rate Cobden quite highly.”
McCarthy said Warrnambool’s third quarter was pivotal, keeping Cobden to 1.5 with the wind while kicking 3.5 itself.
“You are always a bit worried when you give up three early ones but we had the confidence we could get back into it.”